The Guardians Network


Today The Old Vic announces the Guardians Network – a collaboration between organisations committed to eliminating abuses of power in the workplace.

The Guardians Programme, launched earlier this year, is designed to help any organisation go further in its commitment to creating a safe and secure working environment for all. The Network will see the programme go beyond The Old Vic to encompass organisations from across the UK including BFI, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Camphill Village Trust, Chichester Festival Theatre, English National Ballet, English National Opera, Exeter Northcott Theatre, Hampstead Theatre, Lyric Hammersmith, National Portrait Gallery, National Theatre of Scotland, New Adventures, Nottingham Playhouse, Nuffield Southampton Theatres, Playful Productions, Police Now, Rose Theatre Kingston, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Runaway Entertainment, Sheffield Theatres, Society Of London Theatre & UK Theatre, Soho Theatre and Southbank Centre. The Network will span multiple sectors, with Lewis Silkin the first law firm to commit to the scheme, as conversations progress with leading organisations from the public sector, media, advertising, film, television, art and fashion industries, as well as cultural organisations globally, on implementing their own Guardians Programme.

We devised the Guardians Programme in dialogue with our staff to enshrine our values and workplace culture. The idea is simple and therefore easy for others to implement and benefit.  It’s heartening that so many have already done just that. And it is incredible to see the commitment in both the arts and other sectors in embracing a solution that helps reframe how our workforces share concerns, escalate issues, and enjoy working together respectfully.’

Kate Varah, Executive Director, The Old Vic

Each of the Network’s member organisations can shape the scheme to fit their own organisation, but all will appoint internal Guardians, who are trained to promote and uphold their respective workplace cultures. Guardians are trained staff members acting as confidential sounding boards and an information resource for colleagues who seek support related to behaviours or the culture at work, but are unsure about how to proceed. Guardians listen to colleagues confidentially, give neutral support on issues and, where relevant, advise upon which processes and staff may assist.

Joining the Network is free, as is implementing a Guardians Programme. The Old Vic has prepared a ‘how to’ practical guide which is available for anyone to access on its website. Network member organisations receive ongoing pro bono training from law firm Lewis Silkin and Safeguarding Consultant, Joanna Nicolas. At these sessions, Network organisations share anonymised trends and learnings from their own programmes, as well as centralised resources. These trends and learnings are fed back to their own organisations in order for them to horizon scan issues and provide the best support possible for those who work for them.

The Guardians Programme is an inspired way of achieving two difficult things: disseminating and maintaining your desired culture across all areas and locations of the business; and empowering staff with concerns to make well-informed and appropriate choices regarding escalation of issues.’

Richard Miskella, Partner, Lewis Silkin

The Mayor and I are absolutely committed to ensuring London is the greatest place in the world to live, work and play. This doesn’t just mean championing the huge number of institutions – big and small – that make the capital a cultural powerhouse. It also means taking care of the people that work in them, taking a zero-tolerance approach to bullying and harassment in the workplace. Movements such as #TimesUp have shone a light into unacceptable practice, which is why I’m supporting The Old Vic’s Guardians Programme, a new initiative which empowers individuals within the workplace to offer peer to peer support to colleagues with concerns. It is time to eradicate this kind of behaviour for good, and The Old Vic is showing real leadership in driving the change we need to see across the industry.’

Justine Simons, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries

Organisations that would also like to get involved in the Guardians Programme, join the Network, and benefit from Guardians training, can find more information at The next pro bono training session for the Guardians Network is in November.